“You’re fat.” That’s what someone told five-year-old Mallory Slayton.

The little girl stood in line to get her face painted. It was a sunny day at a local fair. Lots of laughing. Games. Cotton candy.

Then some clown makes a remark about Mallory. The day went downhill. Five-year-old hearts break easily.

As it happens, sophomore hearts break just as easily.

“You’re a lard ass,” said a few cheerleaders to Lois’ daughter.

The insults hit her like a virus. Lois says her daughter can hardly walk past a mirror without glancing sideways and saying, “I’m fat.”

Her daughter has since lost thirty pounds. She quit eating square meals. The girl is exhausted from malnutrition, she doesn’t perform well in class. She’s a wreck.

Well, I don’t know when the powers that be decided pretty had to be puny. But it offends me.

And not that it matters what I believe, but the most vivacious woman I ever knew had white hair, fried her chicken in reused peanut oil, and answered to: “Granny.”

Yeah, I know. Modern-day wisdom says beauty is in Victoria’s Secret catalogs, fragrance commercials, and music videos featuring models who aren’t wearing enough to fill-up a pasta fork.

But that’s not beauty. It’s an affront.

Beauty is Karlee. A young girl whose mother died when her brother was an infant. Karlee rocked him to sleep each night. She taught him to ride a bike. She cooked suppers. She sat front-row at his wedding.

Beauty is Lydia. She put herself through college. She cleaned condos, waited tables, worked as a custodian. She raised three girls in a double-wide home, attending night classes. A knockout.

Mary Wilson—single mother of an autistic child, proud owner of an ‘89 minivan with a bad transmission. A smile-a-holic.

And Donna—strong woman who works overtime at Winn Dixie so her son can attend football camp. She’s hoping he gets a scholarship. Gorgeous.

My mama, who couldn’t afford birthday gifts so she made quilts out of blue jeans.

Katherine, the elderly widow who kisses a photograph of her late husband goodnight.

Beauty is the cashier at Tom Thumb, missing teeth, who calls me “sweetie” even though she’s half my age.

It is the high-school girl who suffered third-degree burns in a car wreck. Who laid in a coma for a month. Who just attended prom with her brother.

Listen, I don’t have the qualifications to give you reason to trust anything I say. But I don’t believe beauty is in bikinis, expensive makeup, or high-fashion.

Neither do I believe pretty has anything to do with bathroom scales, waist-sizes, or the word “skinny.”

And while I don’t have an itemized list of things I know to be true, I can tell you two things I know:

A woman is a hell of a lot more than a body.

And little Mallory Slayton isn’t fat.

37 comments

  1. Regina - March 30, 2017 1:50 pm

    May God bless you Sean Dietrich.

    Reply
  2. Karen - March 30, 2017 1:56 pm

    I can’t tell you how much I needed this one today. I am in a battle with that scale, and today I lost that battle again. Perhaps it will be better next week being buoyed by your words. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Jan - March 30, 2017 1:56 pm

    Beautiful! from a former ‘fat girl’….

    Reply
  4. Bobbie - March 30, 2017 1:58 pm

    Finally, a man that “gets it”…thank you!

    Reply
  5. Nancy - March 30, 2017 2:19 pm

    This a story that tears at the hearts of many women. You expressed the truth beautifully. In my 60s, after raising a child and a career teaching first and second graders with a constant theme of kindness, one of my most vivid memories of school (because it cut so deeply) was a “friend” in ninth grade telling me that my dress with big, round buttons matched my face because of the large acne bumps that I had. I’ll never forget that moment. It was like being slapped to hear the words, and I was speechless, but I smiled with a bravery I didn’t feel in my heart. Harsh words don’t heal, but they can enhance a person’s empathy and compassion for others. My heart goes out to anyone who doesn’t perfectly conform to the generally accepted ideal of beauty. God bless every person, especially children, who have ever been needlessly informed that they’re not “perfect”. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  6. Naomi - March 30, 2017 2:28 pm

    Thank you, Sean. Beautifully written and this should be used as a curriculum at schools across the nation. I’ve retired from teaching school and one thing I always tried to do, was to teach the students to make positive statements to others. I’m not saying I was greatly successful but I did not allow degrading, sarcastic statements. Some children are programmed from birth to make mean hurtful statements to everyone around. I continued to fight the good fight, as long as I worked.
    Many years ago my teacher made a very cutting statement to me. It still hurts.

    Reply
  7. Jessica - March 30, 2017 2:53 pm

    Thank you. Beyond what any words can express. From a grown woman who has struggled with self-image since adolescence, this piece is a reminder of greater things than size, frizzy hair, and battle scars. To lift each other up and be conscious of each word spoken. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  8. Lisa Egstad - March 30, 2017 2:54 pm

    Sean,
    I look forward to yoir stories every day. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the rest of the world.
    I’ve been a fat and I’ve been skinny and I’m amazed how differently I’m treated since I’m the same person on the inside.
    I’m just thankful that the one who really matters looks at the heart.

    Reply
  9. Kelly - March 30, 2017 3:20 pm

    Thank you, Sean. Every woman that was taunted and teased as a chubby young girl is thankful for your kind, insightful words.

    Reply
  10. Susan Kroupa - March 30, 2017 4:05 pm

    Sean, I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago, thanks to a post by Michael Bishop, another writer I admire, on Facebook. And since then, you’ve brought tears to my eyes pretty much every damn day. Today’s post was particularly beautiful. I think you might be writing the true hillbilly elegies. Thanks for your work.

    Susan Kroupa

    Reply
  11. Carolyn Nicholson - March 30, 2017 4:42 pm

    Thank you, Sean, from every woman or little girl who has ever been made to feel “less than” for any reason – too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, pimples, bad teeth, whatever. This 64 year old, overweight grandmother may have never met you but I love your sweet heart.
    Carolyn Nicholson

    Reply
  12. Michael Bishop - March 30, 2017 5:08 pm

    Deeds should define us all . . . not the shape, color, degree of health, or apparent gender of our faces and bodies. Fat or lean, pale or dark, ailing or well, female or male, we grow beautiful by acts of agape love. Or we don’t grow beautiful at all. But even those made hateful by societal conditioning or mental or physical illness deserve such love. Or else we sabotage our own beauty with prejudice or unkind judgmentalism.

    Reply
  13. Tricia Bowling - March 30, 2017 5:14 pm

    I know little Mallory Slayton. She’s adorable and loves the Pioneer Woman more than anyone I know.

    Reply
  14. Nancy Segovia - March 30, 2017 7:16 pm

    Amen! I wish there was a way to share this blog because I know some many young girls and women who need to read it .

    Reply
  15. June RouLaine Phillips i - March 30, 2017 7:19 pm

    Thanks for seeing the good. Thanks for looking deeper. Thanks for sharing your God giving gift.

    Reply
  16. Michael Hawke - March 30, 2017 8:52 pm

    And you sir are a philosopher. Thank you.

    Reply
  17. Connie - March 30, 2017 9:43 pm

    I look forward to your missives each day, Sean. Thank you for the enriching insights.

    Reply
  18. Pam Sharpe - March 30, 2017 10:39 pm

    Amen, Sean. Amen.

    Reply
  19. Diane - March 30, 2017 10:55 pm

    When I was about 10 years old, a great Aunt called me “fat” in front of my entire family and extended family. No-one, including my own parents, defended me, everyone just looked while I died in embarassment. To this day I resent my own Mother for not standing up, even a little, for me. I was a little chubby. Not horrible. Then I was bullied at school for being chubby and shy. Well, guess what. I grew up to be quite attractive, so I’ve been told many many times. I did starve myself mostly though. It took a long time, but I married, have a wonderful child, financial security, etc., and I’m happy. But I never attend a high school reunion and have never forgotten those who treated me so badly.

    Reply
  20. Nancy Kane - March 30, 2017 11:32 pm

    There is NEVER a reason to be cruel/unkind/rude…NEVER EVER!!

    Reply
  21. Judy - March 31, 2017 1:46 am

    Sean, every entry warms my heart. I read these every morning just before I leave my vehicle and head into work. I read these aloud to my husband as often as I can. And cry every time. Having lived in the South most of my life, I feel that kindred spirit. I’ve seen these folks, I know them. You are a gifted writer who knows how to expose the heart of the message quickly and accurately. Thank you for this, you put such a fantastic start to my day.

    Judy McCall

    Reply
  22. James Godwin - March 31, 2017 4:23 am

    Sean
    I don’t know the words to tell you how much your writings mean to me. I can only say that you are one man that has life figured out and sharing your thoughts with me helps me to find the good things life has to offer. Thanks Sean

    Buck Godwin

    Reply
  23. Danielle - March 31, 2017 12:36 pm

    No kidding that the trigger so often comes from an older person (who, more often than not means to be “helpful.”) My parents joked about the size of my butt from the time I was 4 or 5 years old. When I was 18, I was waitressing at a family restaurant where all the waitresses were much older than I was and one day one of them told me, “You’re getting broad in the beam.” I stopped eating altogether and lost 30 pounds in about 6 months, becoming anorexic. (Unfortunately, I married a man who perpetuated that. He called me fat when I got all the way up to 118 pounds after having 2 children. I’m 5’5″.) And then, when I was in my late 40s and my daughter was in her 20s, my father (in his 80s) still chided BOTH of us for our weight. And he WAS trying to be helpful, because obviously WE couldn’t see ourselves by looking in the mirror. At 52, I STILL worry far too much about the number on the scale, in spite of telling myself in my 20s that by this time in life I’d be able to relax. It only takes a comment or two …

    Reply
  24. Ann Landers - March 31, 2017 3:21 pm

    Sean,
    You have never shared more truth. I wish every kid in the world could read this and take it to heart.

    Reply
  25. Kay Keel - April 1, 2017 4:28 pm

    Thanks Sean, from a “four-eyed, brace-face”. My parents taught me that people who pick on other people do so to feel better about themselves, but even though my brain knew that, their words still hurt. The old rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” is a lie. Words hurt.

    Reply
  26. Anna Ehrhardt - April 6, 2017 2:37 pm

    Wouldn’t be wonderful if all people could judge with their heart instead of their eyes. If they could let go of the latest trend and be a leader instead of a follower. I wish that people could see full figured people as human beings. Even though we are full figured we do have a heart and feelings. I have been thru a divorce and I am in that percentage of women that went thru physical and mental abuse. I have been thru a lot and I have finally found peace with myself. It took me a while to realize that I have to be happy with who I am instead of trying to be somebody else to make other people happy. You article was uplifting for me and others. Thank you for getting to the heart of the matter. God bless you.

    Reply
  27. Deanna J - May 31, 2017 12:54 pm

    My grand kids are fluffy, but they didn’t have a chance because all grandparents and mommy and dad is fluffy, but sweet and smiles, I love every inch of them!!! Thanks for showing us the difference!

    Reply
    • LindaD - May 31, 2017 1:29 pm

      “Fluffy.” I love that. From now on, that’s what I’m going to be, fluffy!

      Reply
      • Linda Ramsey - May 31, 2017 9:17 pm

        I have a refrigerator magnet that says”I’m not fat, I’m just fluffy”

        Reply
  28. Carolyn C - May 31, 2017 1:07 pm

    Amen, Brother!

    Reply
  29. Suzanne Newsom - May 31, 2017 2:41 pm

    Just waiting for you to put your columns in book form. The only time I see them are on FB, and each one has touched me in some way. Can’t wait to read them all.

    Reply
  30. G.mitchell - May 31, 2017 2:57 pm

    This story cuts right to my heart and always will. Even at 57 whenever I look in a mirror I hear my mother telling me I’m fat. My son and husband lovingly call me beautiful but all I hear is my mothers voice. I don’t understand why some people feel the need to use cruel words to destroy a persons self-esteem. With every ounce of my strength I try everyday to smile and not show how insecure I truly am. I smile while saying a little hello to all and wish them a beautiful day. I help others as often as possible and volunteer at every opportunity. Every day is spent attempting to turn around the hurtful words in my head. The most important lesson learned for me, was how not to be, how not to treat anyone. From what I learned in childhood, I (and my lovely hubby) have raised a kind, loving, sweet, hardworking, positive and strong young man. So, on a good day like today, I’m grateful God gave me the strength to turn around cruel words and actions and treat all others quite the opposite. Wishing this for anyone who hears a word or action that triggers pain or sadness. Be joyful and share that kindness with your children and others and we’ll outnumber the negativity for a better, kinder world. Blessings to you Sean. Thanks for all your lovely daily words.

    Reply
  31. Risa Farrell - May 31, 2017 8:26 pm

    You need to run for office. Your intellect and common sense are sorely needed in leadership.

    Reply
  32. Barbara McMillan - June 1, 2017 1:02 am

    You rock! Thanks for writing this. Even confident women need a reminder that real men are out there.

    Reply
  33. Leah - June 1, 2017 9:43 pm

    My ex-husband called me fat when I was about 7 months pregnant. Mean people suck, Sean, and people like you make the hurt lessen for others. Bless you for that!

    Reply
  34. Buck Godwin - June 2, 2017 3:54 am

    After my two sons were born my wife had to have her thyroid removed, resulting in a significant weight gain. She began wearing loose fitting tops with her slacks and/or jeans.
    One day we were out shopping and met up with a coworker of mine who had not seen my wife in a few months. He came up and said “Congratulations!”. We both immediately realized that he thought she was pregnant. I said ” She’s not pregnant, she has just gained some weight.”
    She was absolutely devastated, and my response certainly didn’t help matters.
    I have thought of this many times since that day and I know how deeply she was hurt, but it was an honest mistake on my friend’s part. I think that the hurt came mostly from what I said. I have wondered how I could have better responded to the situation.
    She’s gone now for 3 years and I don’t think she ever accepted my apology for my part in the pain she felt.

    Reply

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